Could a brand new “20-minute” garden community – and a 28,000 seater stadium over the road – be the answer to the chronic housing shortage in a leafy part of Kent?
Sevenoaks council is considering building on the green belt to reach its government-enforced target of building more than 10,000 new homes by 2040.
The site is currently home to a par three golf course and car boot sales. It was created in the 1990s, using sand, gravel and crushed stone displaced from the construction of Canary Wharf in London.
Developers Gladman Developments and the Ramac group argue that the location, so close to the M25 orbital network and the railway line, would be ideal for a garden village to take up to 2,500 homes.
But their suggested scheme is not just for housing. It aims to create a “20-minute community” where residents will be able to find recreation, facilities, shops and even their place of work- all within a short walk of their home.
The promoters say the site provides the opportunity to create a net-zero community, with its own schools and healthcare facilities, which could also generate enough money to pay for substantial infrastructure improvements to the M25 and wider surrounding road network.
Around two-fifths of the homes – which equates to 1,000 houses – would be “affordable”.
Sevenoaks council is currently consulting on its draft Local Plan, which it is calling Plan 2040 and it has leapt at the chance to include Pedham Place.
However, the existing golf course site is within the green belt and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, both of which would usually forbid any development.
Sevenoaks has the third highest proportion of green belt within its boundaries of any local authority in the country (93%). It says it will be impossible to meet their housing targets without releasing some of this land somewhere.
The promoters argue that not all green belt land is of the same value and that Pedham Place is in a “poorly performing area”.
The site covers 144 hectares but the promoters say housing will only take up half of that.
In addition, around 55 hectares of green space would be provided, with a significant natural woodland buffer to the boundaries in the north, east and south, they claim.
The developers also talk of providing a “local centre” with a medical hub and a High Street with at least 20 shops, including bars and cafes.
There would be an electric transport hub, where residents could hire electric bikes, scooters or cars to get around and an app would help put people in touch with each other to car share.
The scheme would also provide two two-form entry primary schools and a secondary school, providing a total of 840 primary school places and 1,170 secondary places, which would be more than enough for the new community and would help to meet some of the education provisions required for the surrounding area.
Similarly, the promoters say that the proposed health hub could be large enough to help meet patient demand from off the estate.
The promoters are keen to stress that their aim is not to create a dormitory suburb, where people live and go off to work in London, but rather to provide local workspaces and facilitate people to work from home.
However, the site would include a park-and-ride, with buses taking people to Swanley railway station.
Additionally, the scheme would create a network of pedestrian and cycle routes to support not only movement around the development, but also with a link to Swanley Station.
Some 45 hectares would be given over to a “species-rich” chalk grassland, while the new woodland would include areas of orchards.
The promoters said the scheme would provide “a complete, compact and connected” neighbourhood, where people can meet their everyday needs within a short walk or cycle.
The idea of 20-minute neighbourhoods is that people can get to key services, such as healthcare, schools, parks and shops selling fresh food, without a need to get in the car.
This presents multiple benefits including boosting local economies, improving people’s health and well-being, increasing social connections in communities, and tackling climate change.“
The scheme also sets aside land for employment in “research and development, light industry and logistics.”
They reckon that, together with employment in retail, health and schools in the community, a total of 1,662 jobs could be created.
They say the scheme could pave the way towards to improve both pedestrian and cycling facilities along the route to Swanley town centre and railway station.
However, a new – potentially competing scheme – has also come forward for the site.
Former rugby giants Wasps RFC are eyeing a move to Kent that would see a new stadium and facilities built.
The club say they are actively engaged with Sevenoaks council to find a suitable location as part of a permanent move to the county and they have their sights set on Pedham Place also.
Established in 1867, the Wasps were a founding member of the Rugby Football Union and went on to win the preimier title six times and the European Cup twice.
But in recent times the club has fallen into financial difficulties and went into administration in October 2022.
However, the assets and name were bought up by HALO22, a company owned by Christopher Holland, a previous non-executive director of the club, and since then a small team has been focused on building the recovery of the club and seeing its entry back into rugby league.
Originally based in London, they were more recently at High Wycombe and then Coventry, and they say that Swanley will be sufficiently near to their predominantly London fan-base to be a good place to relocate.
The club wants to build a new multipurpose stadium to seat up to 28,000 people, which it says when not hosting rugby matches could be used for pop concerts and the like.
In addition, it requires a hotel for visitors, training facilities to include four rugby football pitches, a gym, a barn for equipment, changing rooms, a medical centre and a medical recovery suite.
The club also wants a sports R&D centre, supporting offices, a restaurant and a players’ lounge.
In addition, there is an ambition from the Lawn Tennis Association to share the site with a new indoor and outdoor tennis facility.
The club believes its complex could be squeezed into Pedham Place as part of the wider mixed-use masterplan.
Wasps would therefore be keen to see both sites promoted within any emerging site allocation...
However, although the master plan drawn up by Gladman and Ramac does contain provision for four sports pitches, it does not currently contain provision for a sports stadium or hotel.
However, the Wasps club has an alternative suggestion.
Just on the other side of the M25 from Pedham Place lies Petham Court Farm.
The land is currently agricultural, sitting southeast of Swanley, with a railway line and the M25 to the east, an industrial estate and the A20 to the north, smaller buildings and more agricultural fields to the south, and allotments and more agricultural land to the west.
Only a small part of the land has previously been promoted through the Local Plan process. Access is from Wested Lane.
The club said: “Petham Court Farm would present a significant opportunity to assist with the delivery of the club’s requirements.”
“We are in the process of engaging with the respective land owners.”
It said that the Petham Court Farm site might even be better for the club, adding: “It has better access and proximity to Swanley town centre, which is important when considering the movement of visitors to a stadium facility.
“Wasps would therefore be keen to see both sites promoted within any emerging site allocation.
“We believe that the most successful way to achieve the objectives of both the club and Sevenoaks District Council would be to allocate both sites.
“This would provide a policy framework that would be supportive of the proposals for these two sites and would alleviate pressure from other greenfield sites across the district that may be less suitable for development.”
Sevenoaks council said that either proposal would need to demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” to justify such as major development in the AONB.
The council has now published the first draft of its new Local Plan and is inviting residents to submit their views. The plan can be viewed here.
The deadline for responses is January 11.